It’s not often that having the captain of the team skating with his teammates for the first time in nearly four months is considered back-burner news. Amidst the trading frenzy of the previous 24 hours, Steven Stamkos quietly returned to the ice during the Lightning’s optional pre-game skate Monday morning. Wearing a regular blue practice jersey, he took part in a few easy drills with a handful of other players. There was no contact, so there was no need for a no-contact jersey.
Of course, with the way the Lightning season is going, it’s kind of surprising that he didn’t accidentally trip over a loose puck and blow out his other knee [You shut your mouth! - Acha]. It appears he made it through the skate without injury, and it will be interesting to see if he’s back on the ice this week with the team or if he skates on his own.
For the most part Stamkos is still on pace for recovery. He’s a couple of weeks from hitting the four-month mark since the injury, which was the quickest anyone thought he would be back. He started skating on his own while the Lightning were in Colorado just over a week ago. Being on the ice is a good sign that he’s on the road to recovery; it checks off the next box the “good to go” list.
“Everything has been great,” concerning the recovery is how Coach Jon Cooper put it (Stamkos quotes start at the 5:58 mark) following the pre-game skate. Cooper was quick to point out that they still don’t have a set date for return, and that they are “not there yet” when it comes to Stamkos practicing with the entire team.
Stamkos will most likely spend the next couple of weeks working out on the ice alone or with any other player that gets banged up along the way. Any time he is on the ice is good time at this point, because it builds up his stamina and he can test his knee with hockey-related movements in a controlled environment.
The next check mark will be returning to practice with the team, most likely in a non-contact jersey. How quickly that happens, and where the Lightning are in the standings when it does, will most likely determine if he plays in a game this season. General Manager Steve Yzerman confirmed that there is “a chance” that Stamkos could return to the line-up this season. (Comments begin at 10:56).
Cooper called it a “four to six month” recovery time. If Stamkos is ready to play closer to the four-month frame and the Lightning have managed to gain some ground in the standings, then he might yet suit up for the team.